Kenney, Ellen. "Interpolated Spaces: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ‘Damascus Room’ Reinstalled." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 7, Number 2 (pp. 305-323) , edited by Yuka Kadoi and Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2018.
In the 1975 iteration of the Islamic art galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), curators assembled historical architectural elements, mainly from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Damascus, to create a Damascene period room that came to be known as the ‘Nur al-Din Room’. Positioned near the introductory gallery, the room captured the imagination of museum visitors, who felt transported through space and time by its romantic allure. Only the most specialized of visitors would have known the extent to which the ‘Nur al-Din Room’ represented a pastiche incorporating elements from different interiors and periods, or that its previous owners remained anonymous. For the reinstallation of the Islamic galleries, which opened in fall 2011, the room was entirely dismantled and reassembled after receiving conservation treatment. It was positioned in a new location within the galleries and was reconfigured to better reflect the original layout of its main elements: a group of wooden wall panels decorated with a colourful relief technique known as ‘ajami. Information about this technique, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Damascus and its residential architecture, as well as the collection and display history of the room itself, is provided on a touch-screen inside the space.
Keywords: Damascus room; Islamic art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Syrian interior; period room; ‘ajami woodwork